John Boehner’s (R-OH) speakership was characterized by chaos, instability, and inaction. The Ohio lawmaker sought — but often failed — to unite a fractured Republican caucus more interested in repealing President Obama’s legislative accomplishments than actually accomplishing much of anything itself. And though he survived multiple re-call efforts by giving-in to the most conservative elements of the Republican party, Boehner was never able to achieve what he promised when he first accepted the Speaker’s gravel from then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA): “restore the institution of the United States House of Representatives.” Below are Boehner’s most memorable moments.
1. Boehner shut down the government to protect the country from “the threat of Obamacare.” In October of 2013, the federal government shut down for 16 days after the GOP-controlled Congress refused to approve a funding bill that included funding for the Affordable Care Act. Boehner explained that the action, which was advanced by a group of conservative lawmakers, was a way for Republicans to “take a stand” against “the threat of Obamacare” and blamed Obama for refusing to negotiate over the law. According to Standard & Poor’s, the shutdown took $24 billion out of the economy, shaving at least 0.6 percent off of GDP in the fourth quarter. The government re-opened after then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) struck a deal to fully fund the government and increase the debt ceiling.
2. Boehner killed bipartisan immigration reform because Healthcare.gov had technical difficulties. After the Senate passed bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform in June of 2013, Boehner refused to bring the measure to a vote in the House, suffocating the legislative effort. A bipartisan group of 200 House members signed onto the House version of the legislation and Congressional observers predicted that the measure would pass if brought to a vote. However, fearing a backlash from more conservative House members, Boehner did not take-up the measure. Instead, he offered an ever–evolving explanation for inaction.
3. Boehner turned the debt ceiling into a political football. Boehner almost shut down the government in 2011 by demanding spending cuts in exchange for a debt ceiling increase. That fight set up sequestration, the automatic budget cuts that threatened to derail the economy at the beginning of 2013 before a last minute deal pushed them back to the beginning of March. Republicans failed to extract more cuts when the debt ceiling was temporarily raised in January through a deal designed to avert the so-called “fiscal cliff,” leading Boehner to insisted that Republicans would only raise the debt ceiling if they got an equal amount of spending cuts. This year, Republicans are threatening to shut down the government if federal dollars continue to flow to Planned Parenthood.
4. Boehner ran the least productive Congress in history. According to the Pew Research Center, the combined productivity of the 112th and 113th Congresses — in which Boehner served as speaker — was the lowest of any back-to-back Congresses on record. The 112th Congress, is considered the least productive in history, according to the Vital Statistics on Congress, passing just 561 bills. As Boehner explained during an interview on CBS’ Face The Nation, “[W]e should not be judged on how many new laws we create. We ought to be judged on how many laws we repeal. We’ve got more laws than the administration could ever enforce.” Indeed, under Boehner, the Congress voted to repeal Obamacare more than 50 times, spent $2.3 million to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, sought to undo Wall Street reform and a slate of environmental regulations.